Gratitude List (June 20, 2020) #TToT

Hi everyone! How are you all doing? I’m a bit tired, but not ready to go to bed yet. Instead, I’m going to write a gratitude list again. As always, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT). Here goes.

1. Sunshine. The weather was really good over the past week. We had some light rain some days, but most days were sunny and warm.

2. An anti-allergy medication. I have bad eczema that itched like hell for some weeks. I finally went to the doctor on Wednesday and got an antihistamine called desloratadine. It didn’t help at all the first few days, or maybe without the medication the itch would’ve been even worse. In any case, now it does seem to help.

3. An antibiotic ointment. One spot, which the doctor initially thought was the result of an insect sting, got inflamed. Thankfully, with some Fucidin applied topically, the inflammation is a lot less now.

4. The night staff. A few nights ago, the itch was so bad and the inflamed spot so painful that I got really scared. I called for the night staff to apply some oily cream to the eczema. She did this, but I remained very scared. Somehow, I had gotten it in my head that I’d get sepsis from this. I pressed the call button again at around 2:30AM. The night staff was so kind and reassuring.

5. Alternatives to bread. I don’t really care for bread for lunch, at least not when topped with the ordinary kind of things you normally put on bread, such as cheese, peanut butter, etc. Thankfully, we had some lettuce left over from making burritos last week, so I had a salad for lunch one day. Another day, I had noodles.

6. Pancakes. Today, two staff came to our home on a voluntary basis just to bake us pancakes. They were so delicious!

7. Reaching my step goal. I reached over 12K steps (my goal being 10K) on three days this week. Today, I didn’t do so well, so I will still need to get some 5K steps tomorrow to break my weekly record of just under 65K steps.

8. The visiting rules at my care facility likely being relaxed as of next week Friday. The announcement will go onto the facility’s COVID-19 page on Monday.

9. My parents offering to visit me. I called my Mom last Sunday and, as we were discussing the visiting rules, my father asked if they could come too. I initially was a bit hesitant and I’m very nervous, but also excited. They will be visiting me next Friday.

Oh, and now I can’t think of a number 10, but whatever. I’m grateful for being able to express my gratitude. Consider that my tenth thankful. Besides, the number is just a suggestion.

What are you grateful for?

My Medication Musings: Phenergan

It’s been a while since I last did a post talking about one of my medications. Today, I want to talk about one I’ve not used in a while: promethazine or Phenergan.

Phenergan was the first PRN medication I got prescribed while in the mental hospital. I remember clearly the state of mind I was in. I had been irritable for most of the afternoon and finally burned my hand using boiling water. This act of self-harm got the nursing staff to fetch the physician. I apparently had a smile on my face when I disclosed my having self-harmed, so he said there was nothing to laugh about. Obviously not, but I struggled to express my emotions. He offered me a PRN medication. I’d heard of Phenergan before and what I’d heard about it from autistic people, wasn’t good. However, I still agreed to take it.

Phenergan, for those not familiar with it, is a low-potency classic neuroleptic. It is currently mostly used as an antihistamine to treat allergies and such.

That evening, I was totally wiped out from the effects of the medication. I just lay on the couch or in bed feeling stoned out of my mind. That was what I needed at that point.

After that, unfortunately, I was prescribed oxazepam as my default PRN medication. Some years later though, I got prescribed Phenergan again after I’d pretty much exhausted all benzodiazepine options.

Unfortunately, by then, Phenergan did nothing. I only took it to make myself and others feel like I was doing something about my distress. At one point, my new psychiatrist once I was living with my husband, even suggested I swap it for a vitamin C pill so that I would still have the placebo effect but not the side effects. Not that I was having any side effects.

A few months later, however, I took an overdose of Phenergan that landed me in the general hospital. That was when I decided not to request a refill of the Phenergan. I by that time had lorazepam, which worked some but of course had the addictiveness as a negative. However, I’m not supposed to take PRN medications regularly anyway.

Gratitude List (May 16, 2020) #TToT

Goodnight everyone. It’s past 11PM here and I can’t sleep. I’m feeling rather hopeless. To cheer myself up, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful. It feels like forever since I last did a gratitude list, even though I did one two weeks ago. Anyway, here goes.

1. Spotify playlists. I already mentioned the Cardio playlist on Thursday. Today, I discovered the Harp Music for Sleep playlist. It wasn’t created by Spotify staff, but whoever created it is awesome! I just tried falling asleep to it. That didn’t work yet, but it definitely helped me relax.

2. Lorazepam. As we speak, I’m recovering from a rather bad crisis. After an hour-long crying fit, I finally asked the staff to give me a PRN lorazepam and it helps at least a little.

3. Dancing. I mentioned this already on Thursday. Today I was in a rather low place and felt like lying in bed all day. I did manage to fit some dancing in though.

4. Pretty good food this past week. I had boiled potatoes only once and the pasta with tuna sauce I had today was truly delicious.

5. Whipped cream custard. To top it off, we had whipped cream custard for dessert today.

6. Insight Timer. Like I said earlier today, I plan on making meditation part of my daily routine. I listened to a body love meditation this evening. The instructor’s voice was a little off to me, but it was a great meditation.

7. A lovely card. Last Thursday, I got another card from the friend who lives in another home in our care facility. She had previously given me an Easter card. Now the card had written in it that she hopes to see me soon. (For context: due to COVID-19, we are currently only allowed to interact with clients and staff for our own homes.) The card was handmade and truly lovely. I will send her one (though not handmade) probably tomorrow.

8. Possibly seeing my husband soon. Currently, we are not allowed visitors at all due to COVID-19. Management though has said they’ll work out a plan on visiting next week. This may mean we need to see our visitors in an assigned room and may need to keep our distance, but anything is better than no visits at all.

This is all I can come up with right now, but it already helps. What have you been thankful for lately?

Prescription Meds Can Be Part of Good Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my rather late letter P post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today I want to talk about the role prescription meds, particularly psych meds, can play in good self-care. Because you know, there is still a lot of stigma attached to taking psychiatric medications or certain medications for physical health, such as opioids. Of course, medication isn’t for everyone and that’s normal. If you do experience serious mental health issues or physical ailments, it’s not weak to ask for meds.

You know, I didn’t take care of myself with respect to my medications until I was 31. Before that, I had subconsciously assumed I wasn’t taking meds for self-care, but rather to please others. That’s how psych meds had been used on me for years in mental health, since irritability (ie. being a pain in other people’s necks) was supposedly my main symptom. Well, it isn’t and even if it were, my irritability is a worse experience for me than it is for others. I mean, I’ve known people, such as those diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, say they have a problem but don’t suffer. That’s okay, but it is rarer than to suffer in silence.

In early 2018, I finally decided I needed help for my depression. As those who read my blog regularly know, I was already on a low dose of an antidepressant, but had no idea why. I didn’t feel comfortable asking directly for a med increase. Let me tell you, however, suggesting specific med adjustments to your doctor doesn’t make you a drug seeker. They may know meds best, but you know you best.

Also, while meds won’t make you happy, you don’t have to settle for mediocre health if there are still options out there. And if you want to lessen a medication dose or stop it altogether, that’s okay to discuss with your doctor too.

Once you do get on the right meds, it’s your responsibility to make sure you take them as prescribed. Certain meds need to be taken right on time or they’ll not work as effectively. I’ve heard this is the case for antidepressants, so I really need to get back on track with taking my morning dose on time. Other meds cannot be taken together or should or shouldn’t be taken with certain foods. For example, when I took iron supplements, I didn’t know at first that it’s recommended you not consume them with dairy products. You don’t need to read everything that’s in the information on a medication you’ve been prescribed, particularly if you’re hypervigilant about side effects. However, you do need to take your medication as directed.

My Medication Musings: Risperdal

I started this should-have-been-series a long time ago, but never got beyond the first post. Today I’m not very inspired to write, but I want to write something anyway, so I am deciding to continue with my medication musings. The medication I’m covering today, is the first daily medication I was evver prescribed.

Risperdal, which is now sold under its generic name risperidone, is an atypical antipsychotic. It was approved by the U.S. FDA for use against irritability in autistic children in 2006. I was not a child when I was prescribed Risperdal in 2007, but I was definitely irritable and autistic.

I remember very clearly when I saw a psychiatrist I’d never met before and who may or may not have read up on my psychiatric history on July 25, 2007. She had a strong Flanders accent. My CPN had referred me to her after my staff at the independence training home called her because I had been very irritable of late. Looking back, it’s no wonder, since I was due to move out of the home and into independent living the next week. But my staff were desperate and so was I.

My CPN had suggested a sleeping medicationor tranquilizer, as I was also sleeping very poorly. Not that the psychiatrist agreed, since when I reported how many hours of sleep I got at a later phone consultation, she said that wasn’t worrysome. The psychiatrist listend to my symptoms and suggested Risperdal.

I agreed without much further questioning. That evening, I wrote a blog post saying antipsychotics in autistics are a matter of really well-informed consent. The post was a response to the general consensus at the time among vocal autistics that antipsychotics should never be considered.

Looking back, while I don’t feel that antipsychotics are completely off limits for autistics – I still take one -, I do agree with another notion from said vocal autistics: psychiatric medication is no substitute for proper support. And yet, at the time, there was no convincing my staff that I shouldn’t move into independent living, so I felt I had no other option if I wanted to have somewhat of a life worth living.

And yet, I was scared. When, after two days, I started experiencing palpitations, I was extremely anxious. It happened on a Friday night when my staff were already gone. Don’t ask me how I got through that night. The next morning, I rang the out-of-hours GP, who recommended I stop taking the medication for a few days and consult my psychiatrist on Monday. Said psychiatrist didn’t believe that this could be a Risperdal side effect or I’d have experienced the palpitations right from the start. So back I was on Risperdal.

I was on a low dose of 0.5mg twice a day. My psychiatrist was in the training home’s city, so when I moved the next week, I had no psychiatrist nearby. My GP ended up prescribing my medication. When I complained to both the training home city psychiatrist and my new GP about continuing palpitations, both dismissed me. The psychiatrist even suggested I up my dose. I refused.

Because of the abrupt change in my living situation soon after starting Risperdal, I had no idea whether it was working. I was still experiencing a lot of meltdowns.

After two months, I took myself off of the medication. I more or less informed my GP, because she was really against me going off of it. I probably lowered my dose way too quickly, going from 1mg a day to 0.5mg for a week and then stopping altogether.

We will never be sure whether Risperdal worked for me, as I never went back on it. However, three weeks after stopping the medication, I started to spiral down into crisis and had to be hospitalized four days later. The crisis service psychiatrist didn’t say a thing about me having discontinued Risperdal.

An interesting thing I need to note, is the fact that Risperdal is notorious for increased appetite and weight gain. However, I experienced the opposite if anything. This could’ve been due to stress though.

My Medication Musings: Celexa

Like I said last week when participating in Working On Us, I wanted to write a series of posts on the medications I’ve been on. I won’t promise this will be anything like a regular feature. However, today I saw that Medication Monday over at The Dark Tales Project is about a medication I currently take: Celexa. I already wrote several posts on this medication in the past, so may be repeating myself. Let me share though.

I was first prescribed Celexa in September of 2010. At the time, I had just finished a book whose title translates to Prozac Monologues, which was about the positives and mostly negatives of antidepressants. I didn’t really care. One comment I remember, by one of the pro-Prozac people, was that she’d become nicer on antidepressants. That comment was on my mind when my psychiatrist suggested Celexa and boy did I hope it’d do this for me. I was a definite bitch! The saying that depression makes you feel as though you’re not okay and neither is anyone else, definitely related to me.

The thing is though, I wasn’t sure I was depressed. No proper assessment of my mental state preceded my being prescribed Celexa. Yes, I was irritable and no amount of tranquilizers or antipsychotics could help that. But is that depression? Would Celexa help?

As it turned out, it helped a little with that. I felt a little calmer, a little nicer on the medication. I never asked my husband to comment on the level of my irritability and can’t remember for sure whether he ever made any positive comment on it. If at all, that must’ve been in 2018, when my dosage got increased.

I actually wasn’t diagnosed with depression till 2017. At the time, my irritability was one symptom that prompted the psychologist to diagnose me with major depression. I’m pretty sure I have persistent depressive disorder (formerly known as dysthymia) too though, but I don’t think I’m currently even diagnosed with any mood disorder at all.

It took another year before my Celexa dosage finally got increased to first 30mg and then my current dosage of 40mg.

I was very irritable at the time of seeking my psychiatrist’s help with my depression. I was also most definitely depressed, in that I didn’t have much energy or motivation for anything. As is known for Celexa and other SSRIs, the medication caused my energy to go up first before actually helping with my mood. My mood however did eventually lift. I am pretty sure that, had it not been for Celexa, I would’ve sank deep into depression during the long process of applying for long-term care.

But the story isn’t all positive. Aside from the side effects, Celexa (and Abilify) took only the edge off of my irritability. I’m in fact noticing it getting worse again. I’m not exactly sad, but I’m most definitely pretty negativistic lately. I’m not sure why. I mean, maybe it’s something to do with the lack of an over-the-moon sense of relief at going into long-term care. Or maybe it’s the other way around and my negativistic state prevented that. I’m not sure.

Working On Us Prompt: Psychiatric Medication

I’ve been thinking of doing some posts on the medications I’ve been prescribed so far, but didn’t get down to it till now. Today, Beckie’s topic for Working On Us is psychiatric medication. Beckie asks a few interesting questions I didn’t think of.

First, she asks whether, when you were first diagnosed with a mental illness/disorder, it took you a while to get used to the medication prescribed. Well, my first diagnosis from a psychiatrist was autism, for which there are no specific medications. It took four months after that diagnosis before I first got put on a daily psychiatric medication. That was Risperdal (risperidone). I didn’t like it at all, even though it took only a few days to kick in.

I remained on Risperdal for 2 1/2 months, and then took myself off. I felt that the medication was merely used to keep me just contained enough that I didn’t qualify for more care. Well, it is my firm belief that medication is not a substitute for proper care.

Going off Risperdal was a mixed bag. I felt okay the first few weeks, but three weeks after having stopped taking the medication altogether, I spiraled into crisis.

After taking myself off of the Risperdal, I was without daily medication for nearly 2 1/2 years. I was in a psych hospital, so I can tell you right away that the crisis service nurse was wrong to say hospitalization would mean being put straight back on meds. Apparently my psychiatrist agreed medication is no substitute for proper care. That was until, despite mostly adequate care, my irritability got so bad I just needed something. I was put on Abilify (aripiprazole) and remain on that ever since.

Beckie also asks about withdrawal. I have been on the same antipsychotic and antidepressant ever since 2010 and never lowered my dosage yet. However, I did for a while take Ativan (lorazepam) at a relatively high daily dosage. Then when I wanted to quit, my psychiatrist said he’d prescribe it as a PRN med. Well, I didn’t need it for the first few days, so I didn’t take it. That was until I started experiencing tremors a few days into withdrawal. I am lucky I got only those and didn’t get seizures or the like. Thankfully, I got put back on lorazepam and tapered safely.

Beckie’s last question is whether you work closely with your doctor in managing your meds. Well, I just had a meeting with the intellectual disability physician for my facility last Monday. She is making sure I get my medications and will also order yearly bloodwork to check for metabolic issues etc. I haven’t seen a psychiatrist with my new mental health team yet, but will soon enough. I want to eventually try to lower my Abilify dose. The intellectual disability physician advised me to wait at least six months to get used to living here though.

Today’s Accomplishments (October 29, 2019)

Last December, I wrote a post in which I shared my small (but important!) accomplishments for the day. I wanted to make this a regular feature, but didn’t. I am not promising it will be this time around, as pressure to do something every day or week with regards to my blog, usually overwhelms me to the point where I quit prematurely. Such was the case with the 31-day writing challenge this October and it’s been the case before. I’m however definitely hoping I can do these more often. Anyway, here are my accomplishments for today.

1. Took good care of my personal hygiene. It’s Tuesday, which means I start my morning routine all by myself and don’t get any help with my personal care. I usually take a quick shower then and often forget to put on deodorant, brush my teeth and hair. I not only took a more thorough shower than usual, but did use deodorant and brushed my teeth. I don’t think I brushed my hair.

2. Took my morning and evening meds, including multivitamin. I got the multivitamin added to my meds recently as I am deficient in folic acid (one of the possible reasons for my fatigue). I often have to remember to ask the staff for this one myself, as it isn’t in the med management system yet.

3. Had three relatively healthy meals. I had two slices of bread with chocolate spread on it for breakfast. That isn’t the healthiest possible choice, but it’s okay. I had two slices of bread again for lunch, plus a banana and a pear. For dinner, we had boiled potatoes, a hamburger and kohlrabi.

4. Walked twice today. Well, three times really, as I also took a short walk in the morning with the day activities staff and two other clients. I took a longer (about 20 minutes) walk in the afternoon with just the staff and took another walk with the living facility staff and one other client in the evening. I don’t have my Fitbit anymore, as its battery is dead and I can’t find its charger, but I’m confident I met my goal for active minutes for the day.

5. Did a short mindfulness meditation. Okay, it took only three or four minutes, but the act of starting a guided meditation in itself is already an accomplishment.

What have you accomplished today?

Working On Us Prompt: Sleep Disorders

The past few days have been pretty busy, so even though I did want to blog, I hardly found the time. Now it’s already latish evening too.

Today I’m once again joining in with Working On Us, for which the prompt this week is sleep, insomnia and other sleep disorders.

As a child and teen, I suffered from insomnia a lot. I would often be awake for the whole night or hardly sleep at all. On week-ends, I sometimes made up for it by sleeping in, but I was definitely chronically sleep deprived. Though my parents sometimes suggested, and I don’t know whether they were joking, that I take valerian or melatonin, I wanted nothing of it. In fact, when I was going in for eye surgery at age seven or eight, I refused the tranquilizer they offered us before the operation. I also constantly fought the anesthesia.

When I was 20, I sought treatment for my insomnia for the first time. My GP prescribed temazepam, the most commonly-used sleep medication here in the Netherlands at least at the time. I was very scared when first using it, being that I’d not taken any medication in years, not even paracetamol.

I think that what lay underneath both my insomnia and my refusal to take medication for it, was an intense fear of losing control. I was, after all, pretty compulsive particularly as an older child and teen.

My sleep issues escalated in 2007, when I lived on my own in Nijmegen. Though I didn’t sleep less than I had as a younger person, I did suffer from the effects of sleep deprivation more. When I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital, the first medication I was prescribed was again temazepam. Then followed another few benzos and even levomepromazine (Nozinan), which is normally only used for palliative sedation.

I had to take “twilight anesthesia”, which means high doses of benzos, several more times prior to procedures and chose them over the pain that would otherwise ensue. However, I still had terrible fear when I “awoke”.

Other than insomnia, I’ve had an assortment of other sleep issues. My husband said at one point that I have hypersomnia, because I slept so much. This was probably down to a combination of medication, vitamin and iron deficiencies and lack of structure.

I am a sleep talker and I snore too. The snoring got slightly better as I lost weight last year. I’m not sure whether it’s worsened again since I’ve gained weight back up again. The sleep talking comes and goes with stress.

Lastly, I suffer from vivid dreams and nightmares. They’ve gotten a little better now that the long-term care situation is more or less settled, but during times of stress, I very often awaken in a state of shock because of vivid dreams. That is, I’m not 100% sure they’re REM sleep dreams or night terrors (which happen during stage 4 sleep). I’ve never had a sleep study done either.

Working On Us Prompt: Coping With Crisis

Today, I’m once again joining in with Beckie’s Working On Us Prompt. This week, the topic is to write a narrative of what works for you when facing a panic or anxiety attack, manic episode or other crisis. I don’t get panic or anxiety attacks much or mania at all, so I’m going to describe what works for me when I’m in an emotionally dysregulated crisis.

Like I’ve said before, I have BPD (traits). These are also known as emotion regulation issues. I also experience complex PTSD symptoms. Both can cause me to suffer emotional outbursts. In addition, I can get severely overloaded due to my autism. This can cause me meltdowns, which in some ways are similar to BPD outbursts. In fact, I’m not 100% sure my BPD diagnosis is correct given that autistics, particularly women, are often misdiagnosed as BPD.

Anyway, I usually notice an outburst coming on when I experience an increase in sensory reactivity. I also often start to experience a decrease in my language abilities. I start to stutter or can only make humming noises and repeat the same phrases. My staff at day activities say that when in this state, my communication abilities resemble those of a toddler. It is interesting, in that we have only one toddler alter. When I can’t do something to calm down, I may progress to a full-blown state of meltdown, in which I become angry and sometimes aggressive or self-injurious.

What helps me when I’m in such a state, is to physicaly remove myself from the situation. This is hard though, as often it feels as though everything that happens around me is important. Usually, my staff help me by clarifying what’s important and what is not.

Of course, now that I still live independently, I don’t always have a staff member available to help me sort through a crisis or make suggestions on how I can cope. I, however, have a phone number of a psych hospital I can call in a state when I’m close to a crisis. They can’t do much but listen to me and try to offer advice, but it’s definitely been helpful in some situations. The mental health team that treats me also has a staff available on the phone for crisis intervention during office hours.

Sometimes, when I’m in a really bad crisis, I take my PRN lorazepam. However, I have some experience with it being overused on me in the psych hospital. Like, whenever I’d react to a sound in an irritated tone of voice, staff would tell me to take a lorazepam rather than helping me to figure out what was causing me overload. This has really gotten me weary of PRN medication.